The 1,000 or so people with reservations to dine at Posto 9 during its first five days will have to wait a bit longer to experience the Brazilian gastropub overlooking Munn Park. The planned opening date of the much-anticipated Main Street restaurant has been pushed back from Thursday to next Tuesday.

The extra time is needed to install a fire-suppressing sprinkler system for a semi-enclosed portion of the third-floor rooftop lounge, owner Marco Franca said.

The sprinkler system that Franca didn’t anticipate will add $20,000 to install but will mean $150,000 in lost revenue, he said. He’s already been paying 60 full-time employees for two weeks or more, noting his payroll is higher than other restaurants because of Posto 9‘s no-tipping policy.

Some of those staffers are on the phone today to find new time slots for people who had made reservations for the restaurant’s first five days.

Franca had set an aggressive construction schedule, with de-construction of the circa-1905 former Central State Bank building at 215 E. Main St. beginning just eight months ago.

Plans call for a main dining room and more formal lounge on the ground floor, an event space on the second floor and a casual rooftop lounge on the third floor.

Part of the rooftop bar is covered with an aluminum pergola that will open to the sky much of the time but has slats that change positions or close automatically depending on sun and wind conditions.

The slats of the pergola on Posto 9's top floor were open this morning.
The slats of the pergola on Posto 9’s top floor were open this morning. |

The fact that the slats form a closed roof triggers the need for a sprinkler system under Florida’s fire code, according to Lakeland Fire Marshal Cheryl Edwards.

The reason the need for the bar-area sprinklers wasn’t mentioned sooner is because the pergola was not included in the building plans and was installed without a permit, she said. A permit for the pergola was recently issued, she added. The covered kitchen area on the third floor was built with sprinklers and water pressure should be adequate for the addition, she said.

While Franca plans to open the first-floor restaurant and lounge next week, the second and third floors will not open until January because of delays in delivery of the elevator, he said.

Still, he wonders why the city Building Department is ready to give a certificate of occupancy for the first floor but the Fire Department wants the entire building to be ready.

Similarly, City Commissioner Jim Malless wants to ensure that city staff is treating businesses similarly. He noted that the Stationery Loft was recently allowed to open in the first floor of the Campbell Building on North Kentucky Avenue across from Mitchell’s Coffee House even though fire suppression systems aren’t yet in place on the second and third floors of that building.

The difference, Edwards said, is that each floor of the Campbell Building is a separate business and is being permitted separately. The second floor is slated to become an event space, and the third floor is planned for residential use. All three floors of Posto 9 are being permitted together since they form a single business, she said.

“We’re not treating them differently. We’ve bent over backwards to expedite it,” Edwards said, noting that the underground fire line inspection took place within 24 hours of notification.

City Manager Tony Delgado says multiple city departments are working to expedite the opening of Posto 9, but safety is paramount.

“We want them to be open,” he said. We think it’s going to bring new people to downtown. We want them to be open as soon as they can as long as life safety isn’t compromised.”

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Barry Friedman founded in 2015 as the culmination of a career in print and digital journalism. Since 1982, he has used the tools of reporting, editing and content curation to help people in Lakeland understand their community better.

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